A couple of presentations I’ve been to lately made the following points:
72% of U.S. adults support regulating CO2 as a pollutant. Only 35% discuss global warming at least occasionally. And only 8% are “activated” and making an attempt to do something about it.
There are some big take-home points there, for me:
- First, it’s encouraging that a super-majority of Americans are worried and want to do something about climate change. This is real cause for hope that change really is possible.
- But it’s frustrating that despite the will of the people, our government is somehow unable to do what’s needed.
- One key to unlocking change may be to simply talk with others about the climate crisis. By talking with people about climate change, we can build consensus that the climate crisis really matters and that we need to make it a priority when voting. And if enough of us talk with our elected officials, at every level, they’ll get the message. Remember: when the people lead, the leaders will follow.
What about the fact that only 8% of us are activated and making an attempt to do something about the climate crisis? Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe explains that a big reason for this is that people do not know what to do.
Taking these points to heart, I had an email conversation with my sister this week about climate action. She is squarely in the 72% who are very worried, but not fully in the activated 8%. She asked what I am doing and thankfully I had a pretty simple answer:
- Joined an organization (the Washtenaw County chapter of The Climate Reality Project, of course!). This helps me stay motivated and also connected to coordinated actions that can have impact.
- Do the various calls-to-action for systemic change: calling members of Congress, sending postcards to voters, and the like.
- Volunteer locally to make basic home improvements for folks that improve comfort, save money, and reduce carbon footprint.
- Track my household carbon footprint and buy offsets.
The point is not for her to simply replicate what I am doing (although I highly recommend joining some form of organization). It’s to plant seeds and help each other deal with what can be a very scary issue. We both came away from the conversation encouraged and with specific things we could do to move forward. And now we have each other’s back on this and can keep the conversation going over time.
So go ahead: talk about the climate crisis. Share what you are doing. Ask others what they are doing, in a non-threatening way: “Hey, I’m trying to do more to help the climate crisis. Do you have any suggestions for me, or things that you are involved in?” This can be light, like asking if they know of a good bakery or hair stylist. Yes, the climate crisis is a serious topic, but try not to think of it as a confrontation. Remember, the chances are very high that the person you are talking with is also very concerned and may be grateful for the chance to talk about it.
When it comes to the climate crisis, talking is action. Indeed, Dr. Hayhoe’s perspective is that using one’s voice is the most powerful way to make change. So have a conversation about the climate crisis today! Let us know how it went in the comments below.